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Q: I use CompuServe, and cartoons I download come as ART files. My e-mail friends say they can't read them. Can I convert these ART files to GIFs or JPGs?

A: When you visit a Web site on CompuServe (and its cousin, America Online), images on the page are compressed into a proprietary format called ART. The online services do this to save space on their servers and to speed up loading times. The compressed images don't look nearly as good as the originals—Web designers really hate that—and, as you've discovered, you might not be able to share ART files with friends who don't use AOL or CompuServe.

You can require CompuServe and AOL to use standard graphics formats by selecting WWW in your program's Preferences and unchecking the Use Compressed Images option. Your Web pages might load a tad slower, but the images are a lot clearer and easier to share.

To add insult to injury, when you save these graphic images from within AOL or CompuServe, they're saved in ART format, even though the filename extension says GIF or JPG.

Windows users can convert ART files using Internet Explorer 4 or later. Open the ART file in Explorer, right-click it, select Save Picture As and choose BMP in the Save As Type box. Then save the file. Convert the resulting .BMP file to JPEG using the Imaging program in the Start, Programs, Accessories folder.

According to AOL, no Macintosh programs can convert the ART format into a more common form.

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